Israeli exit polls signal setback for Netanyahu
unity government is only possible in emergency situations. And I tell you and I tell every citizen today watching us on television: the situation, both security-wise and economically, are emergency situations,” he said. “The country, therefore, requires a broad government.”
Lawmakers in Gantz’s party also expressed support for a unity arrangement, which could include a rotating prime minister. Gantz was expected to address his supporters early Wednesday.
Attention will now focus on Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, who is to choose the candidate he believes has the best chance of forming a stable coalition. Rivlin is to consult with all parties in the coming days before making his decision.
After that, the prime minister designate would have up to six weeks to form a coalition. If that fails, Rivlin could give another candidate for prime minister 28 days to form a coalition. And if that fails, new elections would be triggered again. Rivlin has said he will do everything possible to avoid such a scenario.
Lieberman called for an immediate start to negotiations and predicted it could be wrapped up quickly. But such a deal promises to be complicated.
Gantz, a former military chief who has presented himself as a unifying figure in a divided nation, has ruled out a partnership with Likud if Netanyahu remains at the helm at a time when he is expected to be indicted on criminal charges. Lieberman, who leads a nationalist but secular party, is unlikely to sit with Arab parties on the left or ultra-Orthodox religious parties on the right.
With no alternatives, Likud could be forced to search for a new leader who can work with Gantz.
Netanyahu remained holed up at his official residence in Jerusalem past midnight, as supporters awaited him at a campaign event in Tel Aviv.
Netanyahu, the longest serving leader in Israeli history, had sought an outright majority with his allies to secure immunity from the expected indictment. That now seems unlikely.
Israel’s attorney general has recommended charging Netanyahu with bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three scandals, pending a hearing scheduled next month. A formal indictment would increase the pressure on Netanyahu to step aside if he does not have immunity.
Netanyahu tried to portray himself as a seasoned statesman uniquely qualified to lead the country through challenging times during an abbreviated but alarmist campaign marked by mudslinging and slogans that were condemned as racist. Gantz tried to paint Netanyahu as divisive and scandal-plagued, offering himself as a calming influence and honest alternative.
The election marked Israel’s second election of the year. Likud and Blue and White also drew even in April’s vote.
Israel’s election commission said 69.4% of all eligible voters cast ballots in Tuesday’s elections, a slightly larger number than took part in April’s vote. The commission said 4,440,141 votes were cast in Tuesday’s elections. Turnout in April’s elections was 67.9%.
Likud supporters remain behind Benjamin Netanyahu despite Tuesday’s initial poll results.